Investigators for the California Highway Patrol have now concluded that Lauren Ward, 47, of Los Altos Hills was not responsible for her death on Nov. 4, 2010, in a collision with a tractor trailer truck on westbound Alpine Road at Interstate 280, but the CHP's statements offer slight evidence as to what led to that conclusion.
At the time of the accident, CHP Officer Art Montiel said that the front of the truck was undamaged. His latest statement does not contradict that, but he notes "... the truck and bicycle came into contact with the left front portion of the truck colliding with the right rear portion of the bicycle, while the bike was still in an upright position."
The original speculation -- due to the lack of evidence of front-end damage and because no witnesses have come forward -- held that Ms. Ward had turned into the left side of the truck cab, perhaps because she got hemmed in between the truck and a vehicle heading into Ladera.
How that speculation last November changed to the conclusion in the CHP's Sept. 15 statement is not made clear, but investigators from the CHP's Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team did say that they found human DNA under the truck "near the front axle," Mr. Montiel said in an interview.
As to what exact surface of the undercarriage the DNA was found on, and on which side of the truck, Mr. Montiel said he did not know, adding that he has not seen the full report.
He did say that investigators could not confirm that the DNA found near the axle belonged to Ms. Ward. The investigators did not elaborate, he added.
Asked why the investigators could not explain their trouble identifying the DNA, Mr. Montiel replied: "They are explaining it, but not to me. That will be available once they decide to release the report."
The CHP is required to issue a full report to the relatives of the victim, and the details may come out in court. Ms. Ward's relatives launched a wrongful death lawsuit in January against the trucking company, Randazzo Enterprises Inc. of Castroville, and the driver, Gabriel Manzur Vera.
The current report is final and the investigators have concluded their work, Officer Montiel said.
Investigators did not make a determination of fault in the accident, primarily because of the lack of witnesses, Officer Montiel said.
Ms. Ward died at the scene of the accident. The truck driver no longer drives, according to the CHP, this having been his third accident that resulted in a fatality.